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Boris Johnson drops out of Tory leadership race – Sunak now hot favourite to become Prime Minister

23 Oct 2022 6 minute read
Photo Peter Byrne. PA Images

Boris Johnson will not stand for the Tory leadership, despite claiming that he had the support of the 100 MPs required to run.

The decision means that Rishi Sunak will be the very hot favourite to become the next Prime Minister, either tomorrow or by the end of the week if there is a contest.

Bookies were at the time of writing offering 1/25 odds of Rishi Sunak becoming the next PM, while the only other declared candidate Penny Mordaunt has odds of 29/1.

The announcement seemed to come as a surprise to his backers, with Nadhim Zahawi MP having published an opinion piece on the Telegraph website hailing the return of “Boris 2.0” just a few seconds before it was announced that he was pulling out.

Explaining his decision, the former prime minister said: “In the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who suggested that I should once again contest the Conservative Party leadership, both among the public and among friends and colleagues in Parliament.

“I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago – and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now.

“A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the Government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country.

“I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 – and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow.

“There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members – and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.

“But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.

“And though I have reached out to both Rishi (Sunak) and Penny (Mordaunt) – because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest – we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this.

“Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds.

“I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”

‘Good news’

Earlier his campaign team had told supporters they have secured the 100 nominations needed from MPs for the former prime minister to get on the ballot paper.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris had sent a Whatsapp message to supporters confirming they have the numbers, according to The Sun’s political editor Harry Cole.

Mr Heaton-Harris told them: “OK everyone! Some very good news! Thanks to all your hard work I can confirm we have completed all the paperwork (verified all nominations, with proposer and seconder) to be on the ballot tomorrow.”

Many however had cast doubt on whether Boris Johnson had 100 MPs supporting him or was engaging in some characteristic boosterism.

Indicative vote

Mr Johnson’s withdrawal leaves the election to replace Liz Truss as potentially a straight fight between Mr Sunak, the former chancellor, and Ms Mordaunt, the Leader of the House.

It could all be over a little after 2pm on Monday if Ms Mordaunt – who so far has fewer than 30 public declarations of support from MPs fails – to enough nominations to go forward.

Her supporters will be hoping that the departure of Mr Johnson will open up the contest, enabling her to make it onto the ballot paper.

If she does, MPs will hold an “indicative vote” to show who they support and there will then be an online poll of activists to decide the contest – unless one or other of the candidates stand down.

Many critics of Mr Johnson will be relieved to see him out of the race, fearing that it could plunge the party back into renewed turmoil.

While Mr Sunak – with more that 140 declarations of support according to some reports – is favourite to top the ballot of MPs, Mr Johnson’s supporters believed he would have come out top in the poll of party members.

It raised the prospect of another scenario – as with Ms Truss – where the choice of the activists does not have the backing of MPs potentially leading to more turmoil and division at Westminster.

Before the announcement, Northern Ireland Minister Steve Baker warned Mr Johnson – who still faces a Commons inquiry into whether he misled Parliament over lockdown parties in Downing Street – would be a “guaranteed disaster”.

“There’s going to be a vote before the House of Commons on this issue of privileges, whether he deliberately misled the House,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

“In that vote it’s guaranteed there’ll be a large number of Conservatives who will refuse, as they see it, to lay down their integrity to save him, and at that moment his premiership will collapse.”

‘Momentum’

However, the withdrawal of Mr Johnson does not mean the end of the divisions within the party.

A significant section – including many activists – loathe Mr Sunak for his role in bringing down Mr Johnson last summer, meaning Ms Mordaunt could still come out on top if the contest does go to a final ballot.

There is also likely to be anger among members if they are denied a say if, for whatever reason, there is no poll of activists.

However one prominent Cabinet supporter of Mr Johnson – the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Nadhim Zahawi – announced he was now backing Mr Sunak.

“A day is a long time in politics… Given today’s news, it’s clear that we should turn to Rishi Sunak to become our next prime minister,” he tweeted.

“Rishi is immensely talented, will command a strong majority in the parliamentary Conservative Party, and will have my full support and loyalty.”

Despite Mr Johnson’s claim to have the necessary nominations, some MPs in rival camps have questioned whether he really did.

Earlier, a Whatsapp message from Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris to Johnson supporters claiming to have “completed all the paperwork (verified all nominations, with proposer and seconder) to be on the ballot” was briefed to journalists.

In response, Richard Holden, a Sunak supporter tweeted: “Very odd to brief this out again… (two days in a row). It’s what they briefed yesterday.

“It’s almost as if they still need people and are desperate to show momentum, which they can’t because no-one will publicly come out.”

Earlier, Mr Sunak became the second contender to formally to declare he is standing, promising to “fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country” at a time of “profound economic crisis”.


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Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
1 month ago

Did you hear the dirty liar say how great he was and how he could win everything but decided not to?
Like Trump all over again. Repulsive obese fraudster!
Dr Who predicted this when a fat flatulent Slitheen infiltrated Drowning Street.

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
1 month ago

I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024…

That master at Eton was spot on;

I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation that binds everyone else.

Doctor Trousers
1 month ago

There’s no such thing as a good scenario where the tories remain in power, but I was coming round to the idea that putting Boris Johnson back in charge would be the scenario most likely to lead to an early election.

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago

Looks like the Tories will go for their least worst available option then. He won’t last long though. The party is ungovernable. Party discipline has broken down. I think we’re likely to see a GE early next year. I think Labour will get a majority but I don’t think it will be a huge one. There will be a lot of shy Tory voters out there. The next Parliament is going to be a very difficult one. Starmer will resist electoral and constitutional reform. I wonder how long he can hold out. All the time the UK will perform its… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Arwyn
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
1 month ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

Who is less worse than Rishi though? It’s not like any of them have not been in power destroying the nation since at least 2019. About 40 of them are under investigation for something or other. Some things VERY serious, some less so. They have all either actively or by their silence on the matter, enabled a very toxic national narrative / diatribe, similar to the hate levels of the Brexit debate raging hate war.
Rishi, by Tory standards is probably a saint. Or at least just a LESSER demon

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Quote “I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 – and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow. “There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members – and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.” How very Trumpian. If he really did get 102 nominations then he would not have pulled out. He only cares about himself, not his… Read more »

Mawkernewek
1 month ago

Boris Johnson says he would have been “uniquely placed to avert a general election now” but the reality is he would have been uniquely placed to cause an early election, since he has this parliamentary investigation hanging over him into his having lied about the parties during the period COVID restrictions etc.
This could potentially force him to resign as an MP, and therefore the Conservative Party would have to seek yet another leader. Would this have been embarrassing enough that no-one in the party would be able to actually govern and this lead to an early election?

Windy
Windy
1 month ago

He still can’t tell the truth

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Sly old Boris Johnson, ever the narcissist that he is, wouldn’t have cut his freebie holiday short if he wasn’t serious about entering the race to become PM again. So I don’t believe his reasoning for pulling out. Once a liar always a liar. The reality is. He didn’t get enough supporters, so in a last ditch attempt tried to sweet-talk Penny Mordaunt by asking her effectively to step aside so her supporters would back him so boosting his numbers over the magic threshold of 100 MPs. And when this didn’t materialise, pulled out of the race to save face… Read more »

Mawkernewek
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

How does he explain it to his family, did he say to poor young Wilfred that we have to cut short our holiday so that daddy can have another go at becoming world-king?

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

While his constituents needed their MP to be working for them, he was bunking off in the Caribbean but when he thought he could barge back in to Number 10, he was back like a shot only now to find he has egg on his face. We’ll deserved. The mark of the man. Contempt is a two way street and I’ll bet he quits as an MP before he his hammered at the polls.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

The last 6 weeks’ absence from the Commons, and especially going a.w.o.l since the funeral of E2R despite taking his salary and allowances just sum up his attitude to duty and service. You are right that he will probably jump before he gets pushed by the people of Uxbridge because he will be able to exploit the market for idiots addressing paying audiences and Boris will chase the money.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
1 month ago

Never trust a man who combs his hair with a balloon.

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